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The Guardian: Eco Soundings

John Vidal
Wednesday January 9 2008

Green blindness

Just about the only area in which the Liberal Democrats always lead other parties is concern about the environment. So you would expect that, with a new leader, the party would want to build on this apparent strength. Wrong. At the first meeting of the new frontbench team, each member was asked to write down the three policy areas they thought the party should concentrate on to reverse slipping poll ratings. Almost every MP included “environment” in his or her list. All, except one. Step forward party leader Nick Clegg.

Fast and loose

Late last year, the government’s nuclear-pushing, badger-biffing, demob-happy chief scientist, Sir David King, stated that a GMO breakthrough in Africa had increased crop yields by 40%-50%. But the project he described had nothing to do with GM crops. He also said Britain was losing “billions of pounds” a year by not adopting GMO in farming. Brian John, of GM Free Cymru, wondered what this “fact” was based on. No more than speculation, it seems. Joanne Lawson, of the Government Office for Science, says King’s statement “was intended to reflect the potentially much larger European and global markets that he considers would have existed had public concerns about the new technology been understood and addressed”. John, flabbergasted, wrote back: “I have never heard such vacuous nonsense. The figures have just been plucked from the air.”

Catastrophe capitalism

Edward Kerschner, global wealth management chief investment strategist with financial institution Citigroup, can ease your green gloom. Rainfall patterns changing? Drought increasing? Snow cover decreasing? Pollution rising? Cheer up, there’s big money to be made from climate change. Kerschner has come up with a list of companies he reckons will do well in the light of ecological catastrophe. He advises investing in GM crops, bottled water, biofuels, nuclear power, desalination and dam building with companies such as Monsanto, Nestlé and Syngenta. Aaaaargh!

Hot stuff down under

The new, greener Australian government is certainly changing the way that Aussies think about climate change. David Jones, the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, says it’s time to stop saying south-east Australia is “gripped by drought” and instead accept that, after 11 years, it is permanent. Jones was speaking after figures showed that last year was the hottest on record in four states, and Sydney’s nights were the warmest since records began 149 years ago. “There is absolutely no debate that Australia is warming,” said Jones. “It is easy to see … it is happening before our eyes.” The only uncertainty, he said, was whether the changing pattern was 85%, 95% or 100% the result of the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Rage against the rises

Huge profits for oil companies selling the black stuff for $100 a barrel, train fares going through the roof, and nuclear power on the way are enough to stir the heart of any protester, so no surprises that people from London Rising Tide visited Shell and staged a die-in at the capital’s Tate Britain gallery last week to object to the Tate accepting sponsorship from BP. Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth members in Lewes, East Sussex, were so outraged at Southern Railway’s hiking up of prices and what they called “the penalising of people for choosing a green travel option” that they borrowed a double-decker bus and offered free trips into Brighton. And, before you ask, it ran on waste cooking oil. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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